Avon 1988 (originally published 1987)
This novella is one of my Bout Of Books #22 Read-A-Thon books. I read, read, read last week and now I need to review, review, review! The story is about Missy, a 33-year-old spinster and poor relation of her tiny Australian town's ruling family, the Hurlingfords. Set just before World War I, the very conservative society severely oppresses the unmarried and widowed females of the clan, and outright cheats them, as well. During the book Missy breaks out of her submissive persona and finds happiness at last as she rebels against the Hurlingford elite.
There is much discussion of "genteel poverty" and about who has the power in the town, officially and unofficially. Missy is a very interesting person. She sees the hypocrisy and games the high society folks play. As the book goes on, she becomes a strong female character and I cheered her awakening.
This was McCulough's fifth novel, the blockbuster "Thorn Birds" was the second and most famous one. Be prepared for a lot of Aussie words - I had to look them up on Google since my dictionary didn't have them.